His reputation sullied, teacher commits suicide
False accusation leads to tragedy in Virginia city
By Timothy Dwyer, Washington Post | February 15, 2004
ROANOKE, Va. -- The two-lane bridge that Ron Mayfield Jr. came to on the morning
of his death stands almost 200 feet above the flowing waters where his father
took him fishing as a boy and where, years later, he spent hours with his own
son, casting for catfish and perch.
He made two final calls on his cellphone, gasping out a farewell to his wife and
dialing 911 without saying a word. Then he lay the phone beside the road and
straddled the knee-high metal bridge railing.
At an hour when the school day was just getting started 6 miles away at Woodrow
Wilson Middle School, Mayfield leaned sideways and let go, falling into the river.
The note he left tucked in the Bible, on the front seat of the car he left
properly parked in the rest area by the bridge, began this way:
"I am so sorry for what I have done, but there is no way I could carry on,
absolutely no way."
The apology was for taking his own life. He had no need to apologize for what
drove him to his death, because Mayfield knew it was untrue.
A student at Woodrow Wilson told authorities that he had been assaulted by
Mayfield, 55, who taught English to nonnative speakers. Mayfield denied it, but
his word, his reputation, and his spotless record were not enough. He had been
suspended, and police were called in to investigate.
What Mayfield did not know as he mounted the bridge that morning was that police
had cleared him of wrongdoing.